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King Street traffic squeezed to make way for LRT, design plan reveals

King Street will go from being a major downtown thoroughfare to a street for local traffic under a new plan for Hamilton's light-rail transit system. And Metrolinx will build a new bridge over Highway 403.

New design plans show King will be two-way, and reduced to one lane in International Village

This map shows the future stops of Hamilton's light-rail transit route. (Metrolinx/City of Hamilton)

Transforming King Street from a major downtown thoroughfare to a street for local traffic to accommodate Hamilton's light-rail transit (LRT) system will be a tough sell for residents, says one city councillor. But if Hamilton wants LRT, it has to be done.

Terry Whitehead, a Ward 8 councillor from the Mountain and member of the city's LRT subcommittee, calls it a "radical change."

"It's going to be a huge shift in culture," said Whitehead. He's learning to accept that, he said, but "my concern is how much of that traffic will be pushed into neighbourhoods."

The city released design details on Wednesday in a joint Metrolinx/city report for the $1-billion system. Those details include making King Street two way, minus a stretch in the International Village that's reduced to one lane, and building a new bridge over Highway 403.

The report says the system will start at McMaster University and run along Main Street, crossing over the 403 on a new LRT-only bridge. At Dundurn, it will connect to King Street. It runs along King through the core and switches to Main Street East at the Delta.

The LRT rail line will be segregated along the B-line – meaning divided from traffic lanes by curbed barriers – and run down the middle of the street.

As for the A-line, that will run along James Street North from King Street to the West Harbour GO station – or to Guise Street at the waterfront, if the budget allows.

The city also considered Bay, Caroline and John streets for the route before settling on James, the report says.

On James North, cars and LRT will share the road as LRT takes up two lanes – one for the northbound train, one for the southbound one.

It will be a massive change for the International Village, says Susie Braithwaite, executive director of the International Village BIA. She's surveying members to see how they feel about the changes, but ultimately, "the province is going to do what the province is going to do."

"It's going to be the biggest challenge we've ever faced," she said. 

Sam Merulla, Ward 4 councillor, says the study contained no real surprises. He agrees that it will be a challenge, and a major adjustment for people.

But Merulla says it'll be worth it.

"Any time change is presented, it always brings some sort of discomfort," he said of the design plans. But "I'm optimistic it is the best case scenario." 

Other highlights:

  • The B-line segment will go from McMaster University to the Queenston traffic circle, with a future phase going to Eastgate Square.
  • Both McMaster and Queenston circle will be home to transit hubs – McMaster's for GO, HSR and LRT, and the Queenston one for HSR and LRT.
  • The B-line has 13 stops, each 600 to 800 metres apart.
  • There will be turning restrictionsfor vehicles along the route, banning left turns and U turns at some intersections.
  • The LRT bridge over the 403 will not allow car or bicycle traffic.
  • The single lane of traffic in the International Village will run from John to Wellington, with the westbound lane closing to car traffic.

Metrolinx and the city will spend the summer working on traffic modeling to determine how the displaced traffic should flow with the new line, says Paul Johnson, director of LRT project coordination. The decision whether Main Street should be two way will be made in the fall. 

City councillors will discuss the plan at an LRT subcommittee meeting on May 2.

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